In 1980, Jimmy Carter supporters chanted "four more years" at his rallies. 28 years later, they have gotten their wish. Historical parallels are often not as glaring as this one. But anyone who knows the pain of putting together a desk or a bicycle without reading the directions understands how conversations with other "non-readers" always end with "so that happened to you, too?" It's 1978 again.
What makes today's situation worse is that we have a president who is actively tunneling through our political system disconnecting vital pieces of free market infrastructure and prepping those sections for domestic socialism while disarming our nation and responding in an ineffective way to the growing nuclear threat in Iran.
Yes, this is the same Iran which took American hostages in 1978 and plunged our country into an internal debate on national security. Back then, Tehran had gone from autocratic rule under the Shah to religious rule under the Ayatollahs - a serious shift then but nonetheless not as serious as the shift we see now. Taking 53 Americans hostage for 444 days is a big deal, but not as big of a deal as leaving a glass hole where Tel Aviv is.
The Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore. But Russia and Venezuela are forging an alliance stronger than that between Moscow and Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua in 1982. Back then, the Soviets noticed Carter's foreign policy weaknesses and invaded Afghanistan as a result. Just as our military-industrial complex found a way to do just enough to shore up the Afghanistan resistance then, it does so now in preserving our lead in the War on Terror today despite the months of back and forth required to finally convince President Obama to send in enough troops so that the thing didn't end up a disaster.
Carter was a big proponent of arms control and the reduction in nuclear weapons just as Obama is today. There is nothing wrong with that unless you unilaterally disarm and stop recognizing evil in the world, or what critics back in the Carter days used to describe as being "a paper tiger."
Israel is about to become the new hostages. As President Obama unilaterally reduces our nuclear arsenal and proposes shifts in defense policy away from using the nuclear threat to prevent first strikes on America or its allies, rogue nations of the world will see this as their golden opportunity to move in and fill the vacuum created by our reduction of power. Queue up Nightline again and see if we can get a Ted Koppel look alike in there when the nuclear stand-off begins between Iran and Israel.
Jimmy Carter became president when the American people rejected the Republican Party after years of corruption and not listening to its conservative base. In a historical comparison to where we are now, Con Coughlin of the Telegraph.co.uk writes:
Americans have, of course, been here before: in 1976, sickened by Watergate, they elected a naïve and inexperienced peanut farmer from Georgia to clear away the cynicism that came to define the Nixon era. From the moment he took office in January 1977, President Jimmy Carter made it clear that he wanted to make a new start in America's relations with the rest of the world. Gone was the hard-nosed Realpolitik of Henry Kissinger. Mr Carter transformed US policy by insisting that human rights be placed at the top of the agenda - with disastrous results.This was written in June, 2008 - five months before Barack Obama was elected president.
Many people who are 45 or younger probably don't understand what happened in 1978. If they want to understand what happened in 1978, they simply can experience the "replay" today, or they can go study the Carter administration and the reasons why Ronald Reagan rose to the presidency.
During Carter's years, he was dogged by a former governor who took every opportunity to criticize him in op-eds, speeches and radio broadcasts. This former governor strongly believed that our country was headed into obsolescence at the hands of Carter. He felt we stood on the line between greatness and darkness. And he was darned intent on seeing to it that we headed toward the light.
Our capitalist structure was being torn apart. Government regulation was growing. Taxes inched higher and higher. People lost jobs. The cost of energy was rising. The world was destabilizing militarily. The American people remained patriotic, but they grew less patient with each passing day of the Carter administration. What most people don't remember is that despite that "malaise" Carter said Americans felt, they did not embrace Ronald Reagan immediately. It was not until after the "There you go again," line in the first debate with Jimmy Carter that he actually jumped ahead of Carter in the polls for the first time.
The media lambasted Reagan. They mocked him, calling him a
At one point, a poll suggested that Gerald Ford could beat Ronald Reagan in the 1980 primary. According to Encyclopedia.com:
As Reagan gained momentum, former president Gerald R. Ford toyed with the idea of challenging him, asserting on 2 March that "a very conservative Republican can't win a national election." A CBS News/New York Times poll for 12-15 March showed that Republicans preferred Ford to Reagan by 52 to 27 percent and that Ford was the only Republican all voters favored over President Jimmy Carter (47 to 42 percent). Yet on 15 March Ford withdrew from the race.I couldn't imagine having to talk Palin supporters off the ledge if a poll like that ever came out right before the 2012 primaries. But it wasn't Reagan's high popularity, good looks and outside the box thinking that was going to win him the presidency. It was sheer hard work.
In 1976, after failing for a second time to win his party's presidential nomination, conservative Republican Ronald Reagan had begun almost immediately to plan for 1980. From 1977 until he announced his candidacy in November 1979, he earned more than $100,000 a year from taped radio editorials and newspaper columns while delivering speeches all across the United States. He also established a political action committee (PAC), Citizens for the Republic, which contributed more that $600,000 to Republican candidates in the 1978 elections. Other Republicans had PACs as well, but Reagan's PAC spent more money, offering support to 234 House candidates, 25 Senate candidates, and 19 gubernatorial hopefuls—as well as 122 other Republicans running for state and local offices. In 1980 Reagan was able to call in a large number of political IOUS, thereby demonstrating a far broader base of support than he had in his two earlier tries for the presidential nomination.Would you consider appearing on Fox News today's equivalent of taped radio editorials? Would you consider writing Facebook columns today's equivalent of writing newspaper columns? Would you consider delivering speeches all across the United States today's equivalent of, well, delivering speeches all across the United States? The rest of the stuff described in the above quote is just starting to happen now. What happens in 2010 is going to be extremely important.
Americans are very good at figuring out when they have a problem. We recognize when something's wrong. We recognized it with Jimmy Carter. We recognize it now with Barack Obama. We're just not that good at seeing the solutions right away. We have a Tea Party movement that knows we have to get back to fiscal conservatism. We have a Republican Party that knows the day of the RINO is over. But we don't know who our leader is, do we?
Americans can be angry and bitter, though they are also hardworking and optimistic. But it always takes an optimistic leader to bring that out of them. During World War II, Americans were pumped up by FDR's "fear is fear itself" speech. In 2001, Americans were pumped up by George W. Bush's "we will not falter and we will not fail" speech.
But, we will never admit to ourselves or reveal to ourselves who that leader will be until the last minute. Americans always do things at the last minute.
Pearl Harbor - last minute. Cuban missile crisis - last minute. 9/11 - last minute. Tea Party movement - after Obama's election (the sheep are already in the shearing pen and we finally get moving).
And so it will be in 2012.
Understanding history is the key to understanding where we are today.
Here's what we should look for:
With Carter's obvious weakness, a large Republican field turned out for the competition. Reagan did have a definite advantage. He had been traveling the country for three years building networks, raising money, repeating one simple message: "Get the government off our backs." After a setback in the Iowa Caucus, Reagan went on to win the New Hampshire Primary and roll to the Republican Convention.There will be a lot of people in the 2012 primary. It will probably be like the Kentucky Derby. Read what it was like for Reagan. They even had a bigger RINO problem back then than we do now!
Ronald Reagan didn't write on his hand. He dropped a bunch of index cards and messed up a whole speech. What a dope! Ronald Reagan was called an extremist. He was called dumb. He could never be president. He was "trigger happy."
Ronald Reagan did not become president because of Team Reagan or Conservatives4Reagan or Texas4RonaldReagan or Ronnie's Web Brigade or because of the then day's equivalents of talk radio hosts like Sean Hannity or Mark Levin. Don't get me wrong. Building that kind of an army definitely helped position him. But, he didn't win in 1980 just because his loyal army loved him (and yes they loved him deeply). He won because the American people had enough of Jimmy Carter. According to PBS:
Though Carter managed to raise enough fears about Reagan to keep the race close, in the end the economy, the hostages, and Carter's weak image proved too much to overcome. Reagan won in a landslide, winning the popular vote by 10% and all but six states.The rest of America didn't see what Reagan's truly devoted saw until 1984 when it was morning in America.
This writer told you that the difference in 2008 was 8.5 million people. They've swung back and more. Obama is at 44% favorable now. The American people were a nervous wreck in 1980. Here's this "extremist" former governor who has been mocked ferociously in the press whose foreign policy credentials are "we win, they lose" versus a skinny kid who nearly drove our country into the ash heap of history. I could be talking about Reagan and Carter. But I'm really talking about Palin and Obama.
The day is going to have to come when - after the bicycle doesn't ride or the dresser drawers don't open - that we're going to have to read the directions. And when we do, it won't be "that happened to you, too, huh?" It'll be more like "okay, pass me the Palin so I can tighten up this last screw."